Garf is out for the season…as a new arrival gets into the local spirit
But first some breaking news…
The search is on for Lisbon’s top knee surgeon after a key member of the Vale Das Estrelas forward defence operation has suffered a season-ending injury.
Garfunkel joined the team underweight and lacking in confidence, but after spending months building himself up to 60kg, the night watchman’s career has been blighted by back-to-back injuries.
A deep cut on the front left paw was just the latest blow, leaving the gentle giant languishing under an enormous cone of shame.
And after visiting a specialist this week it seems the energetic 23-year-old (three and a bit dog years) has torn his cruciate ligament and will now require surgery.
It’s going to put him out of action for a while and help the spending curve’s R value stay firmly above one.
“It’s obviously devastating for the big lad, but it was always going to be tough maintaining that level of galumphing on uneven ground,” said teammate Simon.
“It’s tough for all of us when something like this happens – I mean nobody likes a trip to the vet – and he’ll be a miss.
“It’s great to have that kind of muscle on your team when having a massive bark-off with the local mutts.”
Garf imposed himself on the wild boars (wild boars) on day one, and was proving to be an aggressive early warning system for anyone approaching the house.
He’d developed a unique brand of angry confrontation in the last couple of weeks having met his first estate agent.
Just like the horrific knee injury that ended England rugby flanker Jack Willis’ season, they didn’t show the replay of Garf’s dramatic fall on the telly.
The dog equivalent of a second row forward knows more about sausage rolls than crocodile rolls, but is most likely to have suffered the devastating injury during a mad half hour galloping through the steep valley slopes.
“When you’ve got that kind of momentum, there’s not much you can do if your paw gets stuck in a mouse hole – that’s why I mostly prefer lying around the house,” added Simon.
Despite a week of being tricked into taking anti-inflammatory pills hidden in meat, the local vet didn’t like the way he was responding to treatment and a specialist in Beja confirmed he would need surgery.
“If he was a small dog I’d be happy to operate,” said André Claudio, hospital vet for Baixo Alentejo, “but for something of this size I’d rather recommend you to someone in Lisbon.”
And it won’t be an easy trip to the capital for the rural breed of Rafeiro Alentejano who is scared of loud noises, pavements and his own shadow.
Despite the largest ever silly cone, Garf has still managed to tear out all the stitches in his front paw requiring heavy bandaging and repeated trips to the vet…who is demanding he shed at least 6kg to help his recovery.
"I will give everything I can to my rehab to come back a better and stronger player," Garf tweeted.
He’s currently focussed on getting in and out of doorways and weaponizing the cone of shame to accidentally attack Simon.
In other news…
I’ve had the occasional trip to a distillery in my time, but nothing quite like this week’s visit to our nearest (legal) producer, Medronho Jorge.
Jorge Grosskopf grew up in the next valley after his parents moved here from Germany and now he and his girlfriend Sara are bringing up their young children amid the rural beauty of home grown fruit and veg, farmyard animals and a distillery.
His father had distilled medronho from the strawberry tree fruit and he used to watch the process as a child, but Jorge has taken it up to another level.
During the fruit picking season he spends every day on his or neighbouring land picking the ripe red fruit and then making the local aguardente during the winter.
This year he employed a few pickers to help him to collect so he can produce more and have some to sell from the distillery rather than all through the local supermarket (where we bought some as a Christmas present for our brother-in-law Nuno).
We visited his distillery to invest in some bottles of his 48% booze and to ask him about helping us clear the brambles from our new land which he also does with his tractor.
Large plastic blue barrels were stacked up in most of the small room – that’s where the fruit is fermented – and the copper still sits atop the tiled vessel where the wort of fruit is boiled above an open fire made from dried medronho tree branches.
Jorge explained this is the real art – getting the fire up to the correct temperature and keeping it there.
The science is that once the alcohol starts to boil at around 78C, the steam condenses as it travels through a copper pipe running through another large, tiled vat of cold water.
As the experienced distillers among you will know the emerging liquid is then divided into the head, the heart and the tails.
There’s plenty more art involved in getting that balance right to create the character of the spirit: the right amount of fruit flavour and alcohol.
The first liquid to flow – the head – is dominated by toxic methanol which has a lower boiling point than ethanol and has a solvent-like smell and taste and so is run off.
Then comes the heart of the spirit – the ethanol that makes the bulk of the booze – and then finally follows the bitter-tasting tails which are also diverted.
Jorge explained he double-distils his medronho to get a better quality and taste – running his spirit through the whole system a second time.
It takes a lot longer and many people only distil once, but he believes it makes for better hooch – and he sends samples of each batch through to be analysed before it is sold.
Each year he tries to improve the quality, the flavour and to reach as close as possible to the target of 48% alcohol by volume.
It’s really good stuff – I mean we had to try a little while we were there (it would have been rude not to) – and he blends the fruit flavour with the alcohol really well…and has offered to give tours to some of our visitors…even more reason to come!
The distillery trip was also a chance for our American friend Daniel Kozlow to make a whirlwind visit to the area…to buy the neighbours’ house.
We thought we were the king and queen of impulse buying…but this was impressive and fabulous.
Daniel fell in love with Portugal a while ago and is keen to leave the US…but when we sent him the ad and some drone footage we didn't expect him to race out here and make a deal!
Buyers had even agreed a price before Daniel arrived, but then they dropped out while he was here…leaving a route for him to step in, negotiate a price and hopefully join us as neighbours and begin his own, big off the grid adventure!
Franz and Erna are moving back to Germany after 23 years to be closer to family and healthcare.
They built the house themselves on the plot of a ruined house – it turns out that was the house where the Cow King’s grandmother or grandfather was born.
(The Portuguese words for grandfather avô and grandmother avó are both pronounced in a very similar way so we’re not exactly sure which it was!).
Hopefully the process goes well, and we will have a fun friend as a new neighbour by the summer…he’s agreed a price which has been accepted and it’s all underway.
And if we do, Daniel will be the second person we have managed to lure to our little part of Alentejo…come and join us…we’re collecting fun people.
When we went next door to tell Franz and Erna that Daniel wanted to buy the house it turned out to be Erna’s 70th birthday.
So we cracked open a bottle…of demi-sec rather than medronho…which was probably best.
Happy Easter all! And Happy Easter from Simon…who’s had a lockdown trim…which has worked out rather well!
* With thanks to Ana for this week’s headline…and Simon’s new look!